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Home buying made accessible through down payment assistance program

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Ask someone what the American dream means to them, and you will get a variety of responses. One response, common to those native and new to the U.S., is the opportunity to live out your American dream in your own home.

Over the past few months, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City’s down payment assistance program provided five refugee and new American families with a boost of support on their path to homeownership. Through this economic empowerment program, funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development by the  Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), qualified buyers received up to $15,000 in down payment assistance.  

Tara Leung, asset building coordinator at the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, taught over 60 prospective home buyers about buying a home in the US.
Tara Leung, asset building coordinator, teaches a home buyer education course to prospective home buyers. Over 60 people participated in the course—learning about loans, mortgages, and the process of buying a home in the United States.  Photo: Maggie McCormick/IRC

“It brings properties in Salt Lake City within an affordable range for low- to medium-income [families] who would otherwise be priced out of the market entirely because housing is out of step with incomes in Salt Lake County,” Tara Leung, asset building coordinator at the IRC in Salt Lake City, explains.

Prospective home owners must complete a home buyer education course, taught either in person by Tara or online through NeighborWorks Salt Lake. Upon completion of the course, eligible participants who continued on their path to homeownership received matched funds of up to $15,000 towards their down payment—doubling their hard-earned savings.

Looking to the future and rising market values, Jean-Claude decided it was time to purchase a home of his own. Jean-Claude doubled his down payment of $7,000 through the down payment assistance program with the IRC in Salt Lake City. Arriving to Salt Lake City from Rwanda a few years ago, Jean-Claude began adjusting to life in the United States and settled into a stable job at a local bank. With some important upcoming life events in the near future—including marriage, travel, and returning to school to further his education—he felt that purchasing a home would provide stability. Jean-Claude worked hard, saved his money and found his own realtor. Along the way, he heard about the down payment assistance program through the IRC in Salt Lake City. After completing the home buyer education course in January, he is now the proud owner of a townhome in Salt Lake County.

The down payment assistance program was available to those who earn less than 80% of the area median income and who have not owned a home in the past three years. Having a larger down payment helps clients save money over time, Tara explains: “By having a significantly larger down payment, clients can avoid some of the fees and taxes that can end up costing a lot of money on a mortgage long term.”

In total, an average of $9,400 in assistance was given to each of the five participating first-time home buyers—totaling $47,000 in matched assistance.

Want to learn more about the programs and services offered through the IRC in Salt Lake City that help refugees and new Americans like Jean-Claude? Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, where you’ll find updates about our programming, refugee stories of success and opportunities to get involved. Sign up today>